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Reviving Paris: Clearing Rubbish to Restore Beauty Amid Strikes


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Tons of rubbish piling up on the sidewalks turned Paris into a blight city as sanitation workers extended their strike for a 10th day on Wednesday.

The creeping filth is the most visible sign of widespread anger over a bill to raise the French retirement age by two years.

The smell of rotting food was starting to seep from some of the trash bags and overflowing trash bins.

The strike spared neither the Left Bank Palace that houses the Senate nor, across town, steps away from the Elysee Palace, where waste from the presidential residence is apparently stored.

More than 7,000 tons of trash had accumulated by Tuesday, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Part of that was seen being dumped into white trucks from a private company along a protest road ahead of a planned march on Wednesday, the third in nine days. Police said the cleaning was for security reasons.

Other French cities also suffer from litter problems, but the chaos in Paris, the frontier of France, quickly became a symbol of the strikers’ discontent.


Portuguese tourist Fabio Figueirado wanted to admire the beautiful buildings on a romantic getaway in Paris, but instead, he and his girlfriend found themselves scurrying around on sidewalks piled high with rubbish.

“I’ve never seen a city with so much rubbish on the street,” said the 25-year-old near a pile of bulging garbage bags across the road from the city’s main opera house.

“They should collect it once a week or something, it’s not good at all.”

Tourists flock to Paris for fairytale walks and famous monuments, but piles of rubbish spoil the experience for many foreign visitors.

Martha Velazquez, 52, was sitting near Notre Dame Cathedral, stomping ice cream with her family near another stream of black bags.

“I think it’s really sad to see so much rubbish here in this beautiful city,” said the visitor from Colombia.

“It was several streets where we could see piles of rubbish.”

I will be poor

Garbage collectors and cleaners in the capital voted, on Tuesday, to extend their withdrawal until at least next Monday, a union representative told AFP.

Garbage collectors and truck drivers oppose moving the retirement age from 57 to 59 if the new law is passed, the CGT union says.

They also want a wage increase so that they can have a slightly higher pension.

Muriel Jeremink, 56, was among those eye-catching picks.

She said she had been working for more than two decades as a garbage man in the city.

But when I retire, “I know I’m going to be poor,” she says, explaining that her pension will be less than 1,200 euros (about $1,200) a month.

Nabil Latrash, 44, said that he and the rest of the municipal collectors had a stressful job and deserved a decent retirement.

“We work whether it’s rain, snow or wind,” he said.

“When we get behind the truck, we breathe in all kinds of fumes. We often get sick from work.”

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